What retail brands can learn from the gaming industry

Sep 2016, by Janko Matic, Senior Creative Strategist

 

Against a background of constant innovation, there have been two major impressive breakthroughs in the gaming world recently. Pokémon GO and No Man’s Sky launched this year and they’ve both challenged our current mindset about gaming experiences. 

Pokémon GO has pioneered an immersive blend of digital and physical user journeys. This leap has been evident not just through impressive use of augmented technology but also in local businesses cashing in on ‘lured’ customers visiting their stores. 

No Man’s Sky on the other hand is an indie game developed using a small but extremely powerful algorithm which can, with human guidance, ‘procedurally generate’ an astonishing volume of diverse game content. In this case a universe consisting of 18 Quintillion planets… basically, if Earth’s entire population discovered one planet per second, it would take 78 years to discover them all!

 

This is impressive technology-led innovation! But it’s not the technology itself that’s the key here… it’s the kind of experiences that it enables that’s so revolutionary. 

No Man’s Sky seems to have set a bold precedent for a new type of a genre that celebrates the ‘spirit of exploration’. There is no set narrative, there are no objectives…it’s about the experience of a journey, a journey that’s liberated from an end-goal. Yes, the game caters to our ancient appetite for exploration but it also encourages a new mindset about what that experience could be. 

So where does retail come in? Brands in this space have been under a lot of pressure to innovate and compete for customers’ attention and engagement on all fronts and channels, especially in the digital domain. Having a holistic integration of online and offline touchpoints, and differentiating by means of ‘product features’, is no longer enough. Purchasing behaviours are evolving and younger, digital-savvy consumers don’t see the distinction between these touchpoints. As my colleague, Lizzy, has noted, retailers must make sure that the experience they’re providing is authentic and with brand at the heart as consumers increasingly value unique, genuine and memorable experiences as customers. 

Whilst personal gaming and retail may appear to hold little in common, we believe that brands in both spheres face parallel challenges in effecting similar shifts. Whilst retailers are increasingly focused on delivering more engaging customer journeys, emphasis in the gaming industry is moving from technical features and upgrades to the experience that these features and upgrades enable. As these innovations gain greater traction – and as changes in the customer mindset become more established – it will be interesting to see how elements of a more experience-centric approach are adopted throughout other sectors to deliver value along new lines.